Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Okay, it's official: I have no idea what color the sky is in George Will's world. First, he is shocked, shocked, shocked that anyone would have the ego it takes to write for thousands of strangers... without being paid by major news organizations, that is.

Now, he's insulted my mom and I'm unamused. Usually, when people ask, I say my mom's a shrink. Folks know what that means and it gives a reasonably accurate picture of about half of what she does. Then I mention that she does a lot of the business thinking behind the Rural Health Clinic that she and my dad run. Sometimes, I even slip in that she does a great deal of education about Rural Health Clinics...

If more people knew what social workers do, I could just say that she's a Psychiatric Social Worker and be done. I know a lot about what Social Workers do, and even I couldn't give you the full list. Mostly, when I used to say that my mom is a social worker, I'd get people assuming that she worked for some state agency or another, dealing with people nobody else wants to. And while lots of social workers do exactly that, it's not the end-all, be-all of the profession. Just ask my mom.

Anyway, George Will just noticed that it's mostly people who don't mind working with marginalized members of society who go on to become social workers. No joke? You think? Er... I wonder if Mr. Will knows anything at all about the history of Social Work. Like that it has been Progressive from the start, even Liberal, before that was a bad word. Like that the whole idea of the profession is helping people that our current illiberal society has banished to the margins. Like that it's not a coincidence that my mom is in rural Appalachia, working for people who otherwise would not have access to mental health care. It is not a coincidence that she regards part of her job as making sure that others understand the inequities in our current system of health care. It is totally not a coincidence that my mom puts her energy where her mouth is.

And to clarify: she does this in Appalachia. Many of the people she works with/for are socially conservative. She is not requiring anyone to sign on to any letters of protest. Instead, she's out there, living her deeply held religious beliefs day by day.

The problem, Mr. Will, is not that liberals or progressives go around brainwashing any conservatives they can find who want to be social workers, any more than it's that conservatives go around brainwashing liberals who might want to be stock brokers. (Although you don't want to know the kind of grief a friend of mine took going through business school as a liberal.) It's that you don't seem to think a concern for justice or for marginalized members of society is compatable with conservatism.


Blogger Kate said...

I think it's green. That kind of not-right green you get when the pond isn't draining right and all the nasty stuff starts to grow. You know the one...

10/22/2007 12:14 PM  
Blogger Mad Kane said...

George Will is a pompous ass!
Hope I can say "ass". :)
Mad Kane

10/22/2007 8:00 PM  
Blogger Cat C-B (and/or Peter B) said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you... As a clinical social worker turned teacher, I make it onto two of Mr. Will's shit lists, I guess.

Anyway, it's nice to have somebody describe "living [our] deeply held religious beliefs every day," instead of hearing about myself as a "special interest group."

That work with kids, the poor, the disempowered is a "special" interest is really, really tragic...

10/24/2007 8:37 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Kate, you're probably right.

Mad Kane, sadly, he seems to insist on being one.

Oh, Cat, you *so* live out your beliefs in what you do. I worked for a while as a teacher for Head Start, and am now a blogger, so that makes 2 for me, and 3 for you. My main problem with being a teacher or social worker is that I don't do well with authority figures.

So I find myself in sincere sympathy with one of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett. In a Q&A at the National Book Festival a few weeks back, he responded to a question on why he became a writer with "I was never any good at anything else."

10/24/2007 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is the Response from NASW's Executive Director that was sent to the Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/19/AR2007101902281.html

Code of Concern

Dear Washington Post Editors:

Conservative columnist George F. Will has taken public umbrage with the National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) Code of Ethics and its mandate that adherents advocate for social justice. In his review of a National Association of Scholars report, Mr. Will ignores the context in which professional education and training occurs—for all professions. This criticism misrepresents social work education and is a disservice to our members and the clients they serve.

Social workers are committed to solving social problems while helping people improve their quality of life; fairness is a defining characteristic of the profession. Like all citizens of a participatory democracy, it is critical for social work students to develop the skills necessary to advocate within available legal and political structures.

Social work students learn to use advocacy for the benefit of individuals, families and populations who are most vulnerable to the unresolved social problems of the day. Services for veterans, children, chronically ill persons, the elderly, and struggling families are improved by social work advocacy.

Members of NASW hold a diverse array of opinions on many social issues, including abortion and homosexuality as mentioned in Will’s column. However, professional social workers are united in their commitment to respecting the rights of clients to access services and expand options available to them. Social workers do not apologize for caring about people who are marginalized by society, nor do we apologize for holding members of our profession to high standards.

Elizabeth J. Clark, PhD, MSW, MPH
Executive Director
National Association of Social Workers

10/24/2007 11:23 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Thank you, ejackson, and of course, NASW.

10/24/2007 11:36 AM  
Blogger nateprentice said...

Absoluntely wonderful post.

Nate Prentice, MSW, LCSW

2/14/2012 12:55 PM  

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